Thursday, 10 November 2016


 The UK Centre for Alcohol and Tobacco Studies, based at Nottingham University, recently undertook a study to discover whether adolescents were being influenced by depictions of smoking and/or drinking in video games.

The researchers looked at 32 of the best-selling video games to determine to what extent they contained tobacco and alcohol references.  They then asked a total of 1,094 11-17 year olds whether they had played any of the most popular video games identified as containing either tobacco or alcohol references. This group was also asked whether and to what extent they smoked or drank alcohol. The study found that adolescents who had played at least one game with tobacco or alcohol content were twice as likely to have tried smoking or consumed alcohol themselves.

The study also concluded that PEGI should be doing more to highlight these content issues in their descriptors.

PEGI does include tobacco and alcohol under its drugs descriptor as it considers these two substances to be potentially harmful and addictive in line with other drugs such as cocaine or heroin.

I think that Notts University probably want a dedicated descriptor, but we could end up like those food packaging labels that are so rammed with information it becomes difficult to work out what it all means.

Rather more usefully, smoking and alcohol is already highlighted in our Additional Consumer Information (ACI) – a text-based descriptor which gives detailed content information that a simple, visual descriptor cannot.  It will, additionally, state the context in which the smoking/drinking is presented and whether these elements are positively endorsed or otherwise.  I think this nuanced approach is rather more credible than simply an image of a cigarette or a bottle of booze.

The ACI can be accessed via the GRA website at any time.  Simply tap in the game’s title and the info will appear shortly after.

If you think that representations of tobacco or alcohol use in video games IS a problem, I’d be really glad to hear your views on the subject.

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